Pope Apologizes for Public Relations Fiasco

With regards to the SSPX public relations nightmare where Pope Benedict thought that the headlines would read “Pope Heals Schism” and instead got “Pope welcomes back Bishop who denies Holocaust” the Pope had the following very humble words to say. A hat tip to Deacon Greg this morning who beat me to the papers.

One mishap for me unforeseeable, was the fact that the Williamson case has superimposed itself on the remission of the excommunication. The discreet gesture of mercy towards the four bishops ordained validly but not legitimately, suddenly appeared as something entirely different: as a disavowal of the reconciliation between Christians and Jews, and therefore as the revocation of what in this area the Council had clarified for the way for the Church. The invitation to reconciliation with an ecclesial group separating itself had thus become the opposite: an apparent way back behind all the steps of reconciliation between Christians and Jews which had been made since the Council and which to make and further had been from the outset a goal of my theological work. The fact that this superposition of two opposing processes has occurred and has disturbed for a moment the peace between Christians and Jews as well as the peace in the Church I can only deeply regret. I hear that closely following the news available on the internet would have made it possible to obtain knowledge of the problem in time. I learn from this that we at the Holy See have to pay more careful attention to this news source in the future. It has saddened me that even Catholics who could actually have known better have thought it necessary to strike at me with a hostility ready to jump. Even more therefore I thank the Jewish friends who have helped to quickly clear away the misunderstanding and to restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust, which – as in the time of Pope John Paul II – also during the entire time of my pontificate had existed and God be praised continues to exist.

Another mishap which I sincerely regret, is that the scope and limits of the measure of 21 January 2009 have not been set out clearly enough at the time of the publication of the procedure. The excommunication affects persons, not institutions. Episcopal consecration without papal mandate means the danger of a schism, because it calls into question the unity of the Bishops’ College with the Pope. The Church must, therefore, react with the harshest punishment, excommunication, and that is to call back the persons thus punished to repentance and into unity. 20 years after the ordinations this goal has unfortunately still not been achieved. The withdrawal of the excommunication serves the same purpose as the punishment itself: once more to invite the four bishops to return.

You can read more here

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Williamson apologizes, perhaps also dying

Scott over at about.com and Deacon Greg have the info here:

The apology is dated January 28, 2009, and the text below is from the traditionalist website Rorate Caeli:

To His Eminence Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos

Your Eminence

Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems.

For me, all that matters is the Truth Incarnate, and the interests of His one true Church, through which alone we can save our souls and give eternal glory, in our little way, to Almighty God. So I have only one comment, from the prophet Jonas, I, 12:

“Take me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”

Please also accept, and convey to the Holy Father, my sincere personal thanks for the document signed last Wednesday and made public on Saturday. Most humbly I will offer a Mass for both of you.

Sincerely yours in Christ
+Richard Williamson

Most unexpected. My initial inclination was that this Bishop might not even reconcile when the rest of the Society does–but now perhaps he’s seeing things differently?

At the same time, he doesn’t renounce what he believes to be true about the Holocaust. He simply apologizes for making things hard on the Vatican officials. Perhaps an apology to the Jews might also be in order here? Or perhaps, something else is at play here–something that may humble all of us who have been offended by his remarks.

The London Telegraph reports that Williamson may indeed be dying of cancer and that perhaps these statements may be attributable to this illness. In other words, he may not indeed know what he is saying at times because the cancer may be effecting his brain. Given his long track record this seems unlikely, but not completely out of the question.

Rumours have surfaced that Bishop Williamson, the SSPX bishop whose Holocaust denial has caused such horror, is seriously ill with cancer. Father Z passes on a report in La Repubblica that the bishop – whose excommunication was lifted at the weekend – “has a tumour and is dying”.

Similar reports have reached me, but I haven’t wanted to print them without some sort of confirmation. Apparently Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos has asked for prayers for Williamson, whose recent statements – outrageous even by his standards – may be attributable, in part, to his illness.

Meanwhile, I address the issue in a more reflective and prayerful matter in this week’s Busted Halo Cast in the Out of the Haze segment. Check it out.

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The White Chapel of Dachau

Fr James Keenan, SJ is a moral theologian at Boston College but I simply knew him as the Jesuit who lived in our dorm, who led us on retreats and who was funny and droll at dinner. He is recuperating from Cancer these days, so I ask for prayers for him–but with the talk of the holocaust these days I have been reminded of a moving story he told me once.

He was in Germany and had to go to Dachau. It occured to him that for the people who live in Dachau it had to be embarrassing. I mean who in their right mind would want a city that was known for the concentration camps to be their home? Why would anyone freely choose to live there?

He went and visited the camps and was moved and angered by what he saw. He needed to pray, but upon finding the church nearby, he was turned away by an angry nun who had told him firmly that the church was closed and then slammed the door in his face.

As he began his walk back to his train, he caught sight in the distance of a small white chapel. He walked to that chapel and when he entered in, he found something that moved him to tears.

Above the altar was Christ in a cruciform–though he was not nailed to wood, rather he hung on barbed wires.

It seems the people of Dachau could not forget what had happened there and indeed had appropriated the horror of what happened into their need for prayer, their need to pray for an end to such madness. And it was in that prayer and in seeing the atrocities of Dachau that they met the living God, the one who suffers with his creation.

May their lesson and their prayer continue for all of us today.

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